Coach K’s achievement is model of adaptability, flexibility and excellence
Posted: January 25th, 2015
Mike Krzyzewski will accumulate 1,000 career victories in a matter of days, perhaps as early as Sunday.
It’s an astounding accomplishment — one that comes along with 40 years as a Division I head coach — and it’s impressive even to peers that have piled up hundreds and hundreds of wins themselves.
So, what’s the secret to longevity in this profession? How can coaches stick around long enough (and win enough) to get to this point? USA TODAY Sports posed these questions to some of the sport’s most successful coaches.
“You can be flippant and half in jest, and say, ‘Great bosses and great players.’ And there are great bosses and very good players,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who has 739 career victories. “There is some truth to that, but that belittles the accomplishment to me, and I don’t want to do that. What it is, is a tremendous ability to get people to focus on a common goal, and every three, four, five or 10 years, that group of people changes drastically because the culture changes. Your job is to again get 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds to focus and make sacrifices toward a common goal that is a team-oriented goal.
“When you do it over such a long period of time, you have to change quite a bit. You don’t have to change your core beliefs, but you have to change with the times. … To me, longevity means that person, like Mike Krzyzewski for example, has been able to withstand so many changes in his entire world.”
Williams described the current culture surrounding the game as one of entitlement and high expectations. He said when he first began coaching, kids were “thrilled to get a scholarship offer; now, kids just treat it as the old Western guys, another notch on their gun.” Williams said he’s had recruits appear grateful for a scholarship offer, only to turn around the next day and commit somewhere else.
Managing that environment, along with egos of players who all seem to think they’re one-and-done, is what’s required for coaches to survive and thrive in the game’s current climate. To Williams, the key to longevity is adaptability.
Along with that comes flexibility.
“Old guys like us, we never change,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who’s at 962 career wins. “The thing that’s never changed is (Krzyzewski) is very flexible.”